Review copy provided by developer via Curator Connect
I love simulation games. I love being put in a position to decide the strategy for growing a business or a colony or whatever else I can be in charge of. But the simulation is only half of the formula for success, because you also need feedback to know if your strategies are working. Plenty of sims struggle with presenting a compelling system to work with, but plenty more fail to give you all the tools to work with those systems effectively. Bakery is one such game that stumbles on that key point, which would be a real shame if it did well at any of the other keys of the genre.
You have found your calling in life, managing a little bakery in the middle of a bustling city. After picking one of five aspiring bakers to guide, you select a plot in one of the city’s many districts. There’s an inspiring grand opening, and then you and your first employee get right to work in your modest shop. Every day there’s bread to bake, orders to ring up, spills to mop, and shelves to stock. You’ll also have some colorful characters dropping by to offer you items or share their stories with you. If you can make your business take off and maintain your popularity, eventually you’ll get the chance to prove your mastery of the art of baking.
Except you won’t, because this game is virtually impenetrable in every way. You start with a clean isometric view of your store, watching folks come in and grab bread and take it to the register. You need bakers to bake and clerks to ring people up and stock the shelves, but you don’t get to tell them how or when to do this. The only control you have over your bakers is setting what should be on each shelf. You can’t do anything with your clerks, so if they decide to sweep the floor while ten people stand fuming in line, you’re just going to have to eat those lost sales. You can help your employees by assigning points to their skills when they level up or buying them personal items to help their performance, but the former takes forever and the latter is ridiculously expensive.
The worst part about Bakery is how incredibly slow everything is. Your employees are paid monthly so you need to be managing your finances in one-month blocks, ensuring you have enough to cover wages after buying and placing whatever store upgrades you want. But a month takes anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour to play through, depending on how fast you run the simulation and how much leveling up and tweaking you need to do. In that time you need to keep an eye on your business and discontinue products that aren’t working out, but there’s no real feedback for that besides watching them sit on the shelves. You get no charts or data on how your products are performing, and no feedback from customers besides occasional speech bubbles. And odds are that if you realize you’re not going to make your revenue target, you’ll realize it far to late to do anything about it.
Each area of the city has different people who stop by and who like different breads, but you won’t know any of that without intense experimentation and notation. Your bakers develop new breads over time but you won’t know anything about them until you unlock them, and even then it’s just the cost of making them and batch size and not who they appeal to. The game just refuses to tell you anything useful, and what it does tell you is hidden behind one of the worst translation jobs I have ever seen in my life. I’m not just talking about bad grammar or text overflows, I mean text that literally says the opposite of what it means. The button to hire new employees says “DISMISS” and the button to fire people says “HIRE”. And good luck trying to get anything out of the stories like the old lady who gets hit by a car or the schoolgirl trying to get her boyfriend into bread.
I had high hopes for this one based on the concept and the charming Kairosoft-style graphics, but Bakery spoils every part of the formula. You have extremely limited control of your business, you get no useful feedback on your decisions, you can’t anticipate problems because the simulation is too slow, and the translation is a muddled disaster. I don’t feel bad about thumbing this one down because there’s no redeeming element here, nothing that would be missed if you gave this one a pass. And that’s exactly what you should do, no matter how much you might want a bakery management sim, because this one barely qualifies.